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Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

Written by Nicole Olmstead, Government Relations Director, Arizona

Did you know, October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month? Do you know what sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is?  Can you recognize the symptoms?  What do you do if you see someone have an SCA? 

Just in case you didn’t know, Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating for various reasons.  SCA’s claim one life every two minutes, taking more lives than *** cancer, lung cancer or AIDS.  SCA’s are so fatal because blood immediately stops flowing to the organs and more importantly, to the brain.  If not treated within minutes, a SCA causes death. 

The symptoms of SCA are sudden and drastic and include: sudden collapse, no pulse, gasping or no breathing, and loss of consciousness.  Unfortunately, typically SCA’s happens without any of the warning signs that you typically see with a traditional cardiac emergency. 

If you come upon someone and suspect SCA or you see someone have an SCA the most important things to do are 1) Call 9-1-1 and 2) start Hands-On CPR by pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the Bee Gee’s Song “Stayin’ Alive.” 

Don’t know CPR yourself? Click here to learn Hands-Only CPR and you could save a life.  It may be the life of someone you love. 

The AHA is working to pass Hands Only CPR training in schools to improve survival rates in our communities.  If you’re interested in getting involved, please contact Nicole Olmstead or Josh Brown for more information. 

Hands-Only CPR is Why.

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It's a CPR Celebration!

We did it!  After more than 16 years of effort, New York will finally require every student be trained in Hands-Only CPR before graduation! 

Thanks to all of you - our You're the Cure advocates - New York is the 26th state to make this training a requirement for our students.  As a result, our nation's high schools will now be training more than half of our country's graduates every year!  More than 1.5 million kids will soon know what to do if someone's heart stops beating and they need CPR.

High schools all across the state have already received this memo from the NY State Education Department.  However, feel free to share it with your local high school.  Schools are expected to begin training students this year, and we can use your help to make sure every high school is prepared to comply with the law!

This policy would not have been achieved without the tremendous support of so many advocates and partners with the American Heart Association.  This campaign was a long-time coming, and we were thrilled to help celebrate its conclusion with so many core friends!  If you ever need to be in the trenches with a team, this group of advocates - many of whom lost children to cardiac arrest or were rescued when someone knew CPR - set the bar very high!  We are forever grateful for every effort, every story told, every tear shed, in support of this campaign.  Knowing that this law will save lives was motivation unto itself.  But your energy and determination, furthering the legacy of your loved ones, inspired us all to keep going no matter how many times we were told no.  Thanks to you, thanks to the evolution of the science behind CPR, and thanks to many NY lawmakers along the way - CPR in Schools is now the law of the land in New York!

If you weren't able to join us in Albany on the day of the Board of Regents vote - take a look at the photos here:

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Paul Russo-Vineland, NJ

Paul Russo is a heart disease survivor and has been a dedicated “You’re the Cure” advocate for many years. His main areas of interest are tobacco prevention and promoting CPR training.

In 2011, Paul’s quick action and willingness to perform CPR saved his father’s life. On November 29, Paul was helping his parents decorate for the holidays. He and his father, Archie, had just finished moving the Christmas tree from the basement to their living room. Archie went back to close the cellar door. Paul felt compelled to go check on him. He found his father out of breath and moments later Archie collapsed. Paul immediately called 911 and the operator coached him through CPR. Paul revived his father before EMS arrived. Archie soon underwent successful surgery (with the same surgeon who performed Paul’s valve repair months earlier.) At 80 years old, Archie had a new lease on life and is alive and well today thanks to Paul’s quick action.

 Paul believes everyone should learn CPR and advocated on behalf of the successful CPR in schools legislation that was signed into law in 2014.

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Francee Levin

Francee Levin, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

The last thing I remember of my poetry residency at Colleton County Middle School was getting an elevator key.  The next thing was seeing a strange ceiling, which turned out to be in an intensive care unit, over a week later.  I was told I was talking to a teacher when I flat-lined.   The diagnosis:  idiopathic asymptomatic sudden cardiac death. 

In fact, I died twice, but I’m still here.  Two incredible school nurses and a resource officer used CPR and an AED to somehow keep me alive.  I was air-lifted to a major medical center, where I was unconscious and on life support for over a week, given no chance for survival. I made the medical journals, because against all odds, I had a miraculous recovery.  

My heart failed and left me with a low ejection fraction.  I now have an implanted defibrillator, and I’m continuing cardiac rehabilitation.  I did not have a heart attack; in fact, my heart cath showed my arteries are perfect.  And I had no risk factors of any kind.  Without the AED and CPR, I wouldn’t be here. 

I was an American Heart Association (AHA) red dress volunteer before, and I’ve been a crusader and You’re the Cure advocate ever since.   Through AHA’s You’re the Cure, I’ve been able to serve as a survivor/spokesperson to provide testimony about the pending CPR bill that will assure every student gets trained before graduating, and had an Op-Ed I wrote ("A School Saved My Life”) published to help educate the public on the issue.  I'm in close contact with my legislators, who have been wonderful, and I've also contacted my county council, as well as the school board in Richland 2, my home district. I try to respond to all the You’re the Cure alerts and customize the legislator letters with my story. 

Colleton County (where I collapsed) School Board and County Council voted to put defibrillators in every school in the county (including some small rural schools) in my honor.

I'm on a mission now. My cardiac event happened on February 1, 2012, on AHA’s National Wear Red Day.  In 2013, my cousins had a party for me on my “heart-iversary.”  A few days later, I learned that on 2/2/13, the school principal, who’s now in another district, was having a robotics tournament on the athletic field when a woman collapsed and was revived with an AED.  

Every school should have an AED and trained people teaching CPR.  The cost is minimal, and the rewards are priceless.  It’s called LIFE.

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How Can NH Graduates Be CPR Smart?

There are now 27 states that require students receive training on how to properly administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation!  Many high schools in NH teach students CPR, but not ALL students are receiving hands-on training in schools across the state. The AHA wants New Hampshire to adopt the requirement that all students graduate high schools having been trained in CPR. When we do, Granite-staters will have ever-increasing odds that someone nearby will be able to respond with this life-saving skill. This school-year our decision-makers, from legislators down to local school boards, need to hear from advocates like you that CPR taught in schools will result in thousands of new lifesavers in our communities every year. Please join the movement by visiting to learn more about the American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools program.

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CPR in Schools Campaign Reaches Midpoint

Just this month, North Dakota became the 25th state to require all students be trained in CPR before high school graduation. Today, New York became the 26th state to ensure their students will be CPR Smart!  Today’s vote by the New York State Education Department Board of Regents means that more than 1.5 million lifesavers will be added to our communities each year.

For the first time, we can say that more than half the high school graduates in the United States will have been trained in CPR before graduation! Congratulations and thank you for all your work to get us to this important milestone!
More than 326,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year. About 90 percent of those victims die, often because bystanders don’t know how to start CPR or are afraid they’ll do something wrong. Bystander CPR, especially if performed immediately, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. Teaching students CPR could save thousands of lives by filling our community with lifesavers – those trained to give cardiac arrest victims the immediate help they need to survive until EMTs arrive.

The American Heart Association is helping create the next Generation of Lifesavers™ by advocating for laws in every state that ensure students learn CPR before they graduate. With the help of AHA volunteers and staff, 26 states are on board. Help us bring along the others!

The power to save a life is literally in our hands. And in our kids’ hands.

To learn more about the campaign and pledge your support for CPR in Schools, visit

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Save a Life? Our Students Could...

Saving someone’s life…how would that impact you? Are you capable of becoming a lifesaver? The answer could be as simple as learning Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Although the scientific term may sound intimidating, it is a simple life-saving measure that can be learned in less than 30 minutes.  If our students are taught CPR in school they could become the next generation of lifesavers.

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen at any time, and in any place. Over 326,000 people in the US suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest every year, including 550 in Washington, DC alone.  Less than 10% survive, often because they don’t receive timely CPR from a bystander. For every minute that someone is down from cardiac arrest, their chance for survival drops 10%.

We can change this!  To improve cardiac arrest survival in the District, legislation has been introduced in DC Council that would place at least 1 AED in all schools. Although AED’s are a vital asset in case of an emergency, they are not enough by themselves.

Receiving CPR from a bystander can triple someone’s rate of survival. Sadly less than 30% of victims receive CPR from a bystander.  Training all our residents, especially high school students is essential to improving the chain of survival.

Many might think that learning a lifesaving skill like CPR requires a lot of time. However, hands-only CPR training can be taught in under 30 minutes - less than the time it takes to watch a sitcom on TV!

Ensuring that all students are CPR-trained would result in thousands of potential lifesavers in the District each year – ready and able to perform CPR at school, at home, and in the community. 24 states have laws ensuring that all students receive hands-only CPR training prior to graduation. It’s time for Washington, DC to join Maryland, Virginia, and nearly half the country in creating a culture of health and ensuring that every student can be a lifesaver.

We must spread the message NOW – the bill is about to be heard by DC Council

Tell your Councilmembers that you support training all District students in CPR before they graduate!


<Thanks to AHA You’re the Cure intern Lauren Spencer for help developing this blog post>


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Don't Miss A Beat! September Is AFib Awareness Month

Happy September, Advocates!

As we head into the fall, there are many exciting things happening. Football is starting, the weather is beginning to grow cooler, and the holidays will be here before you know it. Additionally, as you may or may not know, September is AFib Awareness Month!

So, what does AFib mean?

AFib, short for atrial fibrillation, occurs when the heart’s two small upper chambers (atria) of the heart don’t beat the way they should: Instead of beating in a normal pattern, the atria beat irregularly and too fast, quivering like a bowl of gelatin. This can lead to several rhythm problems, chronic fatigue, heart failure, and even stroke – a 5x greater risk.

Unfortunately, this condition actually affects many more Americans than you might think: 2.7 million! Approximately 40% of individuals with either AFib or Heart Failure will develop the other condition – which is a lot of people.

Several of our Mid-Atlantic Affiliate volunteers have personal experience with AFib. Their experiences bring them to the AHA and You’re the Cure. Many of our policies, such as the importance of funding the NIH and their research, are the reasons why our advocates are passionate about the work of You're the Cure. You can encourage our lawmakers to continue NIH funding by taking action at the community site.

Join us here to learn more about AFib and AFib Awareness Month!


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Legislative Agenda Summary

It’s an exciting time in the Connecticut General Assembly and the advocacy world. We have begun to finalize our legislative agenda and the legislature is beginning to shift gears for the start of the 2016 session.

We have an ambitious agenda full of great proposals that will help save lives and move Connecticut towards being a state free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Our 2016 legislative agenda includes a proposal to implement a statewide stroke registry and a tiered system of stroke facility designation. This will help ensure that when someone has a stroke they can get the most appropriate care as quickly as possible.

We will also be pursuing legislation to prohibit the marketing of unhealthy foods in schools that do not meet Connecticut’s school nutrition standards. This will help ensure that our students are successful by providing them with a culture of health that encourages a healthy diet.

We will also be working to secure appropriations to help implement CPR training in schools, build more bikeways and walkways and provide schools with incentives to promote a shared use of their facilities. It’s a short session and we certainly are going to have a lot going on. So stay tuned. I’m looking forward to moving these proposals forward with you as we work to make Connecticut a state free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

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Emilie Singh

Emilie Singh, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate

"When Chloe Saved Gracie’s Life"

It was a busy Sunday in 2013 and no one realized my 8 year old daughter Gracie wasn’t feeling well.  She woke up late and asked to take a bath but we told her we wanted to go to Costco first.  We went out to Costco and ran a few other errands.  June in Arizona …it was a hot day. 

When we got home Gracie again asked if she could take a bath. She’s old enough to take baths on her own, and she got it started by herself.  I was upstairs while she was in the tub for a bit, but then went downstairs to change the laundry, and I would occasionally yell “Grace are you ok?” and she would answer “yes”.  My other daughter Chloe (age 11 at the time) was in her room next to the upstairs bathroom watching a show. 

On my way back upstairs with the laundry I again yelled “Grace are you ok?”  But this time she didn’t answer.  I just had a weird feeling, I dropped the laundry, raced into the bathroom and found Gracie blue under the water not breathing.

I started screaming at the top of my lungs “Call 911, call 911!”  As I grabbed Gracie and pulled her out of the tub and put her on the floor, Chloe pushed past me and started performing CPR, pushing on her chest hard with both hands. 

By the time my husband got upstairs with the phone and 911 on the line, Gracie was coughing and spitting up water.  In a few minutes we had her on her bed, covered with a towel and there were 10 firemen and police men in her room.  She was disoriented but thank God she was breathing. 

Gracie lost consciousness so she really doesn’t remember what happened, but she has heard us talk about it.  We just call it “When Chloe Saved Gracie’s Life.”  It seems like the best way to describe the event. 

It turned out that it had been a febrile seizure because, unknown to us, she was already sick and then went into a hot bath. It just made her fever go up higher.  Gracie spent 3 days in the hospital, and Chloe didn’t want to leave her side.  

I can’t even express how grateful I am that Chloe learned CPR in her classroom.  I wish every kid would…you just never know when it could turn them into someone else’s hero.  Chloe was certainly Gracie’s.

See the family retell the gripping story here


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